Transparent Language Blog

Setting a New Year’s Resolution to Learn a Language? Get Out of Your Own Way Posted by on Dec 29, 2014 in Archived Posts

As always, with the start of another year comes another opportunity to set a New Year’s Resolution.

In theory, New Year’s Resolutions are big, ultra-goals that you set in January in anticipation of being a better, completely changed person come December. In practice, NYRs are poorly planned pipe-dreams that you set in January and forget by mid-January.

If you want to learn a language once and for all next year, you’re going to have to realize that that’s not good enough. After all, you’re a language learner on a mission! You want real change this year, and you’re going to do what it takes to finally learn French, or Swahili, or Tagalog.


What You Need to Succeed

One of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned is this:

If you want different results, you’re going to have to do things differently.

You’re going to have to take action to differentiate yourself from the perennial New Years Resolution setter-and-forgetters. What kind of action, you ask?

You need to get out of your own way.

Many of the reasons that we fail in reaching our goals is that we place the entire burden of the goal on ourselves. We set the terms, and we hold ourselves responsible for meeting those terms. In the race to the finish line, we’re both the car and the driver, both the horse and the jockey. And this is a major problem.

If we are both the executive in charge of setting the goals and the worker tasked of attaining them, we are left with a mental conflict of interest. When we’re tired and stressed, our worker mentality can impact our executive mentality. In moments of weakness, we can let ourselves off the hook prematurely, causing our performance to suffer and our goals to go unmet.

To succeed in your New Year’s Resolution, you must separate these two mentalities. After setting your goals, you need to get out of your own way, start moving and let someone else handle the deadlines and decide when the work is done.

What you need is accountability.

What is Accountability?

Put succinctly, accountability is the act of holding yourself (or someone else) responsible for a specific commitment. In the arena of goal setting, it typically refers to establishing a external system of motivation that obligates us to take action towards our goals, typically for fear of some consequence, such as looking bad in front of others or losing money.

Types of Accountability Systems

I first learned of the power of external accountability from Hal Elrod, noted author and success coach. In his work, Hal frequently champions the cause of accountability and indeed connects much of his personal success to establishing more accountability in all areas of his life.

Hal specifically endorses five main types of accountability (examined in further detail here). I believe strongly that many of these types of accountability can be the fuel for your language learning success this year. I’ve used many of them myself, and wouldn’t be half as productive as I am without them.

Let’s examine each of these forms of accountability and see how they can be applied to your language learning mission in the new year.

1. You

Typically, this is the lowest potential form of all accountability. Let’s face it; if we all reliably followed through with the promises we make to ourselves, we’d be rich, fit, and fluent in 10 languages by now. There wouldn’t even be a need for this article. Use at your own risk.

2. Peer accountability

This is where you find a single person that holds you accountable for your goals. After you break down your yearly goals into smaller subgoals and the requisite deadlines, you establish an accountability schedule that you and your partner follow. When you reach a particular deadline, your partner will check-in with you to assess your progress. Often, the fear of looking bad or letting your partner down will spur you on to complete your goal.

Look for peer accountability partners both online and off. Anyone can fill the role as long as they are willing to check-in with you regularly and reliably. You want to choose a person who will not let you off the hook when your motivation falters, so be careful when choosing a close friend or family member.

3. Peer accountability 2.0 (Groups)

This form of accountability involves reporting your progress a small group of people, ideally with like-minded goals. With each person you must answer to, you are less and less likely to hedge on your goals, since it means letting down a larger number of people.

As with peer accountability, these accountability partners can be found practically anywhere. Often, accountability groups the form of a meetup group, mastermind group, or a goal-based group that is participating in a particular challenge.

Bonus tip: Your accountability within a group will equal the level of authority you have in said group. So, if your New Year’s Resolution is to study French, start and lead an accountability for French learners. You’ll be less likely to give up if you’re the one who organized it all in the first place.

4. Public Declarations:

This entails making a public announcement of your goal to a large group of people. Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are excellent for this.You must openly declare your goal and the deadline for its completion,and then regularly announce your progress to those who follow you on said platform.

Here, you leverage your goals against the hundreds (or potentially thousands) of people who will have eyes on your progress reports. Often, many will cheer you on, and you can lean on their encouragement in difficult times.

5. Private Coaching:

This accountability method involves paying someone to keep you accountable. It has all the perks of peer accountability, while also requiring a monetary investment to keep you from backing out. In the language learning sphere, private coaching generally takes the form of a class or a one-on-one tutor.

Bonus tip: For added accountability, pay for a certain number of lessons up front and schedule them all in advance. This way, even when you’re not mentally “up to it,” you’ll have a reason to keep moving forward towards your goal.

It’s Implementation Time!

If you’re looking to set a New Year’s Resolution that you finally follow through with, then finish this post and immediately look for ways in which you can set up accountability. Call a hard-nosed friend you trust and let her in on your plans. Go to and look for language-based groups in your area. Visit a popular language forum and declare your goal to the world.

Whatever you do, don’t wait, because time waits for no one.

So, tell me readers: Are you setting a New Years Resolution to spark your language learning?


Author Bio: Kevin Morehouse is a language coach who is on a journey to make the world a more multilingual place. Raised as a monolingual English speaker in the United States, Kevin is all too familiar with the struggles of the language learner looking to go beyond English and make the leap from monoglot to polyglot. On his blog Language Hero, Kevin strives to provide actionable tips on mindset, method, and goal-setting that can help intrepid learners escape the language learning labyrinth and be a difference-maker in the multilingual and multicultural world beyond.You can read more of his work at Language Hero or connect with him on Twitter @Kevin_Morehouse

Keep learning a language with us!

Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Try it Free Find it at your Library
Share this:
Pin it

About the Author: Transparent Language

Transparent Language is a leading provider of best-practice language learning software for consumers, government agencies, educational institutions, and businesses. We want everyone to love learning language as much as we do, so we provide a large offering of free resources and social media communities to help you do just that!

Leave a comment: